When I was browsing through a few Japanese cookbooks, I realised that the commonly used ingredients for seasoning are soy, mirin, sake, miso, rice vinegar and dashi. If you have these in your pantry, you can cook up quite a number of Japanese dishes, and I find them quite indispensable. I am no expert at Japanese cuisine, but reading all about the different cooking styles and preparation methods is an enjoyable learning experience for me.
So, I came across a recipe for Mackerel Miso-ni in this book called "Classic Japanese" by Masaki Ko. It's a typical Japanese home-style dish where mackerel is poached in a miso and dashi broth with ginger, and what you get is a creamy, buttery, umami-tasting sauce that blends harmoniously with the flavour and texture of the mackerel. It's so tasty that I could probably eat just that with a bowl of white rice, and nothing else. So easy and delicious, this is now a new family favourite!
Mackerel Miso-ni (Poached Mackerel with Miso)
Adapted from Classic Japanese by Masaki Ko
300g (10oz) mackerel cutlet
1/2 cup instant dashi
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp sake
1/2 inch ginger, peeled and sliced thinly
3 tbsp miso (darker miso is preferred, but you can use any type)
1/2 inch ginger, peeled and finely shredded, for garnish
1/2 scallion, sliced, for garnish
Soak the shredded ginger in cold water for 5 minutes, and then drain well.
Fold a sheet of foil just smaller than the diameter of a shallow pan. Pour the dashi, sugar and sake into the pan and bring to a boil. Gently lower the mackerel into the pan and arrange the sliced ginger on top. Spoon the soup over the fish and place the foil over it. Simmer for 5-6 minutes.
Dissolve the miso in a bowl with some of the soup from the pan. Pour it back into the pan and simmer for 12 minutes more, spooning the soup over the fish occasionally as it cooks.
Carefully transfer the fish onto a serving plate and pour the remaining soup (or thickened sauce) over the top. Garnish with shredded ginger and scallions. Serve hot with white rice.
When boiling fish, gently loser it into boiling water. Do not cook from cold as the fish will smell unpleasant and add bitterness to the soup.